Ice cream sodas, or floats, are a product of accident. In 1874 while celebrating the sesquicentennial (150 years) celebration in Philadelphia, PA, Mr. Robert Green ran out of ice for the sodas he was selling. So to keep his drinks cold, he used ice cream from a neighboring vendor. He used a selection of 16 different flavors of syrup, soda water and vanilla ice cream, and the new tasty treat was an immediate sensation. Teens loved them, however many adults hated them, and some towns even banned them on holy days because soda was marketed as a "miracle cure" much like alcohol or other controlled substances that could not be sold on Sunday. This action spawned the invention of the Sundae, a soda less ice cream treat.
My grandfather lived in Gulfport, Mississippi. After WWII he returned home and began working for Mr. Barq, one of the originators of Barq's root beer. Growing up, every time we went to visit there was always rows of bottled root beer in the fridge, and wooden crates full of bottles out in the shed. My grandfather must have still believed in the evils of soda, because I was always "too young" to drink one. To make matters worse my grandfather and father would sit on the back porch and have black cows....right in front of me and my brother!
A black cow is another name for root beer float. It was sheer torture watching them slurp down those delicious treats on those hot summer nights. Later I remember going out to Dairy Queen with my dad one afternoon. We went in and he ordered a strawberry soda. Since I was feeling grown up, I ordered one too. That was the prettiest drink I ever saw. It was in a tall clear plastic glass, large around the top and smaller at the bottom. It was filled with a creamy pink liquid, topped with whipped cream and a bright red cherry on the top. It was incredible!
Now that I'm all grown up, all I drink is Barq’s root beer, and a black cow is the only kind of soda I will get because it was forbidden for so long. Some people like a foamy head on their soda, I don't like digging through all that foam to get to the good stuff, so I make mine by pouring the root beer in the glass first. Next add 1 or 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream. (If you add chocolate ice cream it is called a brown cow) However if you like the foam, just add the ice cream to the glass first, then fill with cold root beer. Or you can go down to your local Dairy Queen and try any number of flavors and invent your own favorite soda. Then grab a spoon and a straw and enjoy one today on National Ice Cream Soda Day!